ROSWELL, Ga. – After losing in the second round of the state Class AAA playoffs each of the last two seasons, the Blessed Trinity Titans will make their first ever appearance in the quarterfinals Friday night.
The Titans rolled to a 38-0 victory at home over White County last Friday, Nov. 22, their fourth win over the Warriors the last two seasons, including a pair of playoff victories.
After two decisive wins against outmatched opponents, the Titans will step way up in class in the quarterfinals. Blessed Trinity will host Washington County, considered one of the top two teams in AAA along with perennial state power Buford.
Washington County is 11-0 on the season, with only one of the team’s wins by fewer than 36 points. The only close game for the Hawks this season was a 36-33 overtime victory against Lovett midway through the season.
The Titans (9-3) also played Lovett, losing 14-3 in their second game, one of four non-region opponents they faced who made the playoffs.
After viewing several of Washington County’s game films, Blessed Trinity coach Tim McFarlin had one overarching impression of the Hawks.
“They run so fast, you can’t tell what they’re doing,” McFarlin chuckled. “They are the fastest football team we’ve seen since I’ve been here. They have speed everywhere.”
Other than Lovett, no team has scored more than 16 points against the Washington County defense. McFarlin said Lovett “confused them with their multiple formations and hit some big plays, but that’s not how we do things.”
The Titans will try to do what they usually do against teams with a speed advantage – attempt to play keep away with a ball control offense.
The return of starting tailback Milton Shelton will play a key role in that regard. Shelton saw some action in the win over White County, and McFarlin expects to be able to utilize him even more against the Hawks.
Shelton has gone over 100 yards five times this season and come close on a few other occasions, with Chad Manthey enjoying some huge games in Shelton’s absence, including two regular season contests when he totaled more than 550 yards.
The two players combined for around 200 yards on the ground against White County, with Manthey scoring two touchdowns against the Warriors and short yardage tailback Carter McManes also scoring twice. All four scores came in the first half as the Titans built a 28-0 lead at the break.
Manthey rushed for more than 100 yards in the win to boost his total for the season to over 1,000. Sophomore quarterback Connor Davis completed 7 of 12 passes for 125 yards and a 22-yard touchdown pass to Pat Jasinski in the second half.
The Titans limited White County to around 140 yards of offense, shutting them out for a second time this season. Blessed Trinity defeated the Warriors 30-0 during the regular season. The Titans won last year’s playoff game 35-14 after a 21-19 regular season victory, the only one of the four games played in Cleveland.
McFarlin said the Titans’ defense “played extremely well,” keeping the Warriors’ run-oriented attack in check. He cited linemen Ethan Cerone, Austin Werkheiser and Michael Ortiz for stopping White County’s inside running threat, with the Titans’ strong defensive effort giving the team a field position advantage.
The Titans began the game with a long, time-consuming scoring drive and controlled play the rest of the way.
After a pair of easy victories to open the playoffs, McFarlin is preparing his team for its biggest test of the season against Washington County.
“We’re going to have some match-up problems. They spread you out. If you try to play pass defense, they’ll run on you, and if you load the box, they’ll throw it. They’re a well-rounded team.”
Washington County has been a state power for the last two decades, making the playoffs every year but once since 1991. Between 1992 and ’97, the Hawks won three state championships, and reached the finals and semifinals once each.
After four trips to at least the quarterfinals between 2000 and ’06, the Hawks did not advance past the second round again until last year, when they lost to St. Pius. Washington County scored 56 points in each of its playoff games the last two weeks.
The winner of Friday’s game will be at home in the semifinals next week against the Central Carroll-Ringgold winner.